Jun 23, 2004

Getting ahead

I found the article Lying from today's Christian Science Monitor of timely relevance as my current status is set to: job seeker. My aversion to lying can be debilitating at times. Perhaps limited and selective disclosure is the safest bet.

Anyway, some tidbits from the article:
In the high-pressure, high-stakes environment of 21st- century America, lying has for many apparently become a way of life, even among those whose faith demands truth-telling. People may know it's wrong to lie in theory, researchers say, but in practice they feel the success they want will be out of reach if they admit their flaws and sins along the way.
"It's now more lucrative to lie," says Diane Swanson, professor of professional ethics at Kansas State University. "People must know there is a risk, but the payoff is potentially enormous.... Conversely, if you admit you had a flat quarter or a flat year, then the market will penalize you."
Meanwhile, the list keeps growing of top achievers who got snared in their own web of lies. Martha Stewart awaits sentencing for lying to investigators; 28 top federal employees hold fake degrees; journalists at USA Today, The New York Times, and The Nation have presented fiction as fact.

Seen most charitably, the ever-rising toll of lies told to get ahead might in part reflect a rising level of scrutiny and standards for leaders, according to Douglas Porpora, author of "Landscapes of the Soul: The Loss of Moral Meaning in America." Although lying has always been around, he says, today's reporters who probe routinely into private lives are now more likely to find and expose it... Yet what's also noteworthy today, Porpora adds, is that the ordinary person is willing to tolerate routine lying under certain circumstances. When the crime seems practically harmless - to cheat the government out of a few tax dollars, or to bill a rich client for a few unworked hours - then the working guy seems to have won, according to Porpora and other analysts.

Lean Postings II

Just as I was wrapping up translation of the second volume, the series' author announced that further books won't be completed until new research findings can be considered. Whatever. So I'm effectively out of work.

This means jobsearch consumes most of my time, and I can't justify pampering the blogthing. But I've got a couple interviews coming up, so maybe I'll sneak a few moments this evening...

Jun 18, 2004

Patio garden progress

So far, what we've got growing on our patio (minus oregano, shiso, cilantro and chamomile) looks something like this.


The left photo shows mint, basil, arugula, more basil, and a goya plant along the bottom, and some struggling thyme and more goya plants along the top. The goya plant in the corner is the most active so far, and the right photo shows the bottom 2/3 of its climb up the netting.

I'm fascinated right now with tracking the taller goya's progress each day, and by the relative speed with which it grabs ahold of the netting. Now that it's begun to flower, there's the added joy of trying to guess which of the early buds will eventually bear fruit.

Here's a male goya flower, with a little bee hard at work. I watched this guy do his thing for about 10 minutes before he wandered off.

This appears to be the beginnings of a goya fruit, with all the bumpy striations in miniature. Because this is the first baby goya we've seen, we weren't sure if it had already bloomed, or if that was yet to come.

Our question was answered the following day. The female flower is obviously much meatier than the male. Here's hoping that little bee came back to finish the job...

Jun 16, 2004

When Separate Ways aren't

I have always had a strong, gut-level dislike for Journey's music. In fact, the deejay at our wedding was specifically instructed to play no Journey whatsoever, under any circumstances.

When I looked at their website, I learned that the band was formed around former members of Santana. This might have put them into a category of music I would like... if only Steve Perry hadn't jumped on board. And if they hadn't become the pinnacle of cheesy arena rock.

But in Japan, where bands like Blur and Green Day rule the import scene, I assumed we were safe from any Journey intrusions. That is, until this evening at the grocery store. I was strolling through the produce section humming along - not quite consciously - with some strangely familiar piped-in tune.

Then it hit me, and my blood froze.
Journey. Separate Ways.

Am I a closet Journey fan? Is everyone of my generation a closet Journey fan?

Jun 14, 2004

A vulgar prelude to Kisses

Last Friday evening my friend Soushi and I met up in Shinjuku. As we were having a cup of coffee and exchanging souvenirs from our recent vacations, he got a call on his mobile and announced to me that a college buddy of his was in town, and would I like to join them for dinner. Sure, say I, but only for a bit.

So we rendezvous with his friend, the decision is made to eat Chinese, and we wander off in blind search of someplace affordable. The problem with this style of restaurant-choosing in Shinjuku - and probably lots of other places - is that from the outside one drinkeatery is indistinguishable from any other. Fine restaurants are different, of course. As are most izakaya (forget what that is?), which typically have street-level entrances so you can get a glimpse of the inside. But these budget places are stacked 8 or 9 high in tall skinny rectangular boxes, and the only hint as to their contents is a tall skinny sign listing each establishment's name, and possibly an employee holding a menu or "1000 Yen Off!" coupons outside on the sidewalk.

A coupon was thrust in our hands. And that was it... we had found our Chinese restaurant. (Incidentally, I can't remember ever seeing Soushi pay full price for anything.)

The elevator takes us to the fourth floor and - surprise! - it's a wacky theme restaurant. So many of these are, although it often remains a mystery what exactly the theme is supposed to be. Ours was maybe gulag? High-security postapocalypse tavern? I dunno, but there was a "Who goes there?" robotic guard posted at the entry and the interior was a series of rebar cages. And once every hour or so a five minute flashing-light-and-helicopter-noise performance interrupted our meal. To top it off, the food wasn't really all that Chinese.

Such is the luck of the draw. Great place for a loud drinking party with coworkers, not so ideal for conversation with friends. A highlight for me was waiting in the men's room:

On first glance this urinal reminded me of "Kisses," which I first saw over at John's Daily Dose of Architecture. But the six-armed man with button-defying belly does more than just dangle the feminine orifice. Once you're within usable reach he swings it to and fro (see the joints at his elbows?), his head spins to reveal his two-faced nature, he heckles you... and the camera in his uppermost hand flashes every few seconds. Drunk fun, or worst bathroom nightmare?

Jun 9, 2004

Green Card Catch-22

(Let the reader beware! This post is all about boring personal problems.)


Let's see if I can describe the situation without making it any more complicated than it already is.

In applying for Rie's immigrant visa, I (as the husband) am the petitioner, and she is the beneficiary.
One document required is the affidavit of support (I-864), which must be "completed, signed and notarized by the petitioning relative (sponsor)." I am both the petitioning relative and the sponsor on this affidavit.

But there are issues of current and sustainable income (in the U.S.) that are difficult for me to meet as the sponsor, since we live together in Japan and plan to move together to the US. So I FAX my questions to the embassy (they have no toll-free, live-operator number for visa info), and the response I get is, "Since you are currently living in Japan, you do not qualify as a sponsor. Please find a joint sponsor."

Wait a minute! I thought as the petitioning relative I'm also the sponsor. Besides, I coulda sworn I read something about sponsors living overseas. So I double check with the State Department I-864 FAQ page. Sure enough, it says right there that the "law requires that sponsors be domiciled (live) in any of the States of the United States, the District of Columbia, or any territory or possession of the United States." Well, the embassy fax did suggest I find a joint sponsor.

But the next paragraph on the FAQ states (emphasis added): "Under the law, a joint sponsor cannot sponsor an immigrant when the petitioner does not have a domicile in the United States."

What does this add up to? I can't sponsor my wife because we live together in Japan, and because we live together in Japan nobody else can sponsor her, either.

This sounds like a rule designed to encourage the Mail-order Bride trade.


Fortunately, a little farther down the FAQ, it says:
"The sponsor living abroad must establish the following in order to be considered domiciled in the United States:
- He/she left the United States for a limited and not indefinite period of time,
- He/she intended to maintain a domicile in the United States, and
- He/she has evidence of continued ties to the United States."

I believe I can establish these three. My question is, how do I convince the embassy folks if they weren't even willing to read this far in their own FAQ?

Jun 8, 2004

Yokohama is Transit-of-Venus-happy

Left - A small dark disc, top left, starts to creep across the face of the sun as one of the rarest of celestial spectacles, a transit of Venus, is observed at Yokohama Science Center on Tuesday.
Right - Wearing eye-protective filters, a group of people look [at the transit of Venus] at Yokohama Science Center, south of Tokyo.
photos and text from MDN.

Jun 7, 2004

Monday evening peek into Google-consciousness

Third installment in the widely-adored and misunderestimated series.

Top 10 results for today's search - "compound eye"

1. & 2. ..ooOOhatchOOoo.. - The front page asks you to turn on your sound, which you might consider doing to better enjoy the audio tidbits inside, where you will quickly want to go once you've turned on your sound. Nice diversion for a minute and a half, but for the first time in recent memory I was too impatient to stick around and find out the point of the site.

3. The Compound Eye - succinct description of the arthropod eye.

4. University of Kentucky Entomology for Kids - "Make your own compound eye." Really?

5. Drosophila tissue and organ development: Eye and antenna - This content is for professionals only. Do not attempt to read at home.

6. Compound eye - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - "Currently offline with some database troubles" But it's Wikipedia, so the content is somewhat predictable.

7. Compound eye - Like number 3 above, except shorter and with no pictures. And topped by four or five advertising links on the left and fashionable white ground on the right.

8. Compound eye definition of Compound eye. - I really wish these stupid free dictionary entries would stop appearing in the upper level results.

9. The Compound Eye - Something tells me this wasn't intended for public viewing.

10. I Glasses: A Simulation of a Compound Eye - Goofy, but tempting, but I'm guessing you could make some of these for less than $7.95.

Jun 2, 2004

Sasebo update

At first I was inclined to be charitable in my assumptions about the murderer. She's 11, after all. But it turns out the act was premeditated. She brought the cutter from home, with the intent to kill.

I have the aching suspicion this chatroom murder phenomenon won't stop here. That a wave of copycats will follow - at least in Japan - like the freeway shootings of yesteryear.

Have a happy day

Imagine a smiley face built with fractals.
Link to image denied some days later by copyright owner. Oops. Sorry, Fractalus.

Son of the American Dream II

More working parents play 'beat the clock' [CSM]
For decades, nontraditional schedules were largely the province of blue-collar workers, many of whom had a family history of shift work. Today, half of those on nonstandard hours are white-collar, technical, or service-industry workers.

Much of this article deals with parenting, but the overall point is that life is hard when husband and/or wife work shift schedules. Don't I know it... Rie was working a variable-shift schedule (including graveyard) for about a year. She's off that schedule now, but still working 9-9 most days. I told her things would be better when we move to the US. Does this make me a liar?

Somehow I feel cheated. As a child I became convinced that modern conveniences - cars, computers, jelly and peanut butter swirled together in one jar - were improving the standard of living.

Son of the American Dream

US runs a high-tech trade gap [CSM]
During the 1990s, American workers were told that if US lower-skill manufacturing jobs were lost abroad, they would be replaced by better-paying jobs in new higher-tech areas as long as they upgraded their skills to qualify for these jobs.

Now high-tech jobs, too, are increasingly moving overseas. Many countries are becoming more sophisticated in high-tech production, often with the help of graduates from the best American technological universities.

Large US companies believe the shift of high-tech jobs overseas is in their interest, allowing them to expand globally and cut prices for consumers. They label opponents as "protectionists."

China is of particular concern. Beijing has insisted that companies getting access to its large market share some technological know-how in return. Last year, the US deficit in technology goods and services with China soared to $20 billion, almost five times larger than the technology deficit with Japan...

What I want to know is, what's the deal with the idiotic green card lottery? Is this to diversify American unemployment?


SASEBO, Nagasaki -- A girl who admitted to fatally stabbing
her classmate at school here said that the victim had bad-
mouthed her on an Internet homepage, police said Wednesday.

Story lead from MDN, photos of Kyoji and Satomi Mitarai from the Japan Times

Jun 1, 2004

Note to self:

Get butt in gear.

Also, when looking for some Japanese avant-pop in the vein of Buffalo Daughter, check out Buffalo Daughter.